Private equity firm The Blackstone Group has appointed Philip Levinson as managing director in charge of capital raising and client relationships for the Asia-Pacific region.
Levinson, who started at Blackstone on Monday, will be responsible for raising capital for Blackstone's funds and for maintaining client relationships. He will also work together with the Blackstone team to develop new products for institutional investors across Asia.
"In my new role I will be leveraging my contacts with client organisations as well as engaging with Blackstone's existing investor clients to ensure they are up-to-date with the Blackstone suite of products," Levinson said yesterday in an exclusive interview with FinanceAsia. He will be based in Singapore, but will cover the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Levinson joins from RREEF, the global real estate, infrastructure and private equity arm of Deutsche Asset Management. At RREEF Levinson had a similar role to the one he has taken up at Blackstone, as managing director and head of client relations for Asia (ex-Japan) and Australia, responsible for raising capital for RREEF's unlisted real estate and infrastructure funds. Levinson joined RREEF from real estate firm LaSalle where he set up and ran the client service team in Asia.
"I believe it is a good time to be taking up this assignment as there has been a marked shift to quality and it is an incredibly exciting time to be representing an established player like Blackstone," replied Levinson in response to a query about whether investors are more wary of committing money to alternative investment managers post the financial crisis.
In a written statement, Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone's chairman and chief executive officer, said: "Levinson's appointment reflects both the increasing sophistication of Asian institutional investors as they turn to alternative assets as an integral part of their portfolios and the increasing importance of Asian capital markets in global investment flows."
Blackstone's alternative asset management businesses include the management of corporate private equity funds, real estate funds, hedge funds, funds of funds, debt funds, collateralised loan obligation vehicles (CLOs) and closed-end mutual funds. The Blackstone Group also provides financial advisory services.
"Blackstone sees Asia as a major source of capital," said Levinson. The firm's investors include a blue-chip list of sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and institutional investors. Levinson will not be responsible for the Middle East, which Blackstone covers on the ground and out of London.
Blackstone opened shop in Hong Kong in early 2007. Soon thereafter, in May 2007, China's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, invested $3 billion in Blackstone's IPO. CIC made the investment at $31 per share and Blackstone now trades around $10, which has resulted in a lot of negative press related to the performance of CIC's investments. It also paid $5 billion for a 9.9% stake in Morgan Stanley in December 2007.
In December 2008 CIC's chairman and CEO, Lou Jiwei, told a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Hong Kong that CIC has entirely backed away from investing in Western financial institutions because of uncertainties created by foreign government intervention in financial markets.